1996, R, 92 min. Directed by Kevin Bacon. Starring Helen Mirren, Kyra Sedgwick, Beau Bridges, Michael Yarmush, Lucas Denton.
REVIEWED By Alison Macor, Fri., Feb. 7, 1997
For a “small” film, Losing Chase has received a large amount of attention lately. Having premiered on cable television late last year, actor Kevin Bacon’s directorial debut received an auspicious number of Golden Globe award nominations, one of which the film won for Helen Mirren’s portrayal of Chase Philips. Mirren is wonderful as the intriguing Chase, a woman whose strong character and emotional frailty are at odds with one another, alternately enraging and puzzling her husband and two young sons. After a particularly public and frightening “scene” atop a lighthouse on Martha’s Vineyard where the Philips have a summer home, Chase’s husband Richard (Bridges) enlists the services of Elizabeth Cole (Sedgwick, Bacon’s real-life partner), a young woman hired as a mother’s helper for little Richard (Yarmush) and his younger brother Jason (Denton). At first hostile to the attractive and overly solicitous Elizabeth, Chase puts her through a series of “tests” that serve to humiliate Elizabeth and further distance Chase from her family. These incidents also drive Elizabeth closer toward her own demons, which ultimately brings the two women to a deeper understanding of one another and the complexity of their relationship. Working from a solid script by Anne Meredith (the screenwriter who also wrote the screen adaptation of Bastard Out of Carolina for Angelica Huston’s directorial debut), Kevin Bacon proves as adept at directing as he is at acting. Without any distracting flourishes, Bacon allows the story to take center stage, privileging the characters and letting Mirren and Sedgwick guide the film with their fine performances. While the role of Elizabeth does not offer Sedgwick the adult role that she seems capable of playing, the character does allow her to express the subtleties of the human heart, a feat that she always seems to excel at. As Chase’s well-meaning but mismatched husband, Beau Bridges also proves heartbreakingly convincing. Once in a while, the story skips lightly over certain moments while holding on to others a little too long, but, generally, it is a well-paced character study of a woman – and her family – struggling to stay together in spite of herself. Given all of these accolades, Losing Chase may be just the film to give Bacon the attention his work deserves but rarely receives, making him known for something other than the cult party game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.”